More Jackson County Opinions...

AUGUST 4, 2004


By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
August 4, 2004

And the gardener also grows
Gardening isn’t just about growing vegetables and flowers and stuff. Gardening is also about growing the gardener.
If you are growing a garden and not growing yourself, you need to hang up your hoe and take up bridge or golf. Gardening is not supposed to be boring and bothersome. It is supposed to be uplifting, educational and fun.
I believe I am a better man for having dug in the dirt most of my life. Anyway, gardening and fishing — and two good women — have kept me out of jail, so far.
Gardening really is a good disciplinarian — and a continuing education. You can learn a lot, growing things. If you talk to your plants, and listen to what they say back to you, you can stay out of trouble and make good grades in the School of Life. And if you pay close attention to what’s happening on the garden’s periphery, you’ll do OK in the University of Living, too.
Bob Freeman, a friend and neighbor, helped me realize that just growing vegetables is not all there is to it. He is responsible for the bluebirds’ comeback in and around Jefferson, and that made a lot of people happy. He built dozens of bluebird boxes, nailed some to trees and posts all over Jefferson, and gave some away.
I was fortunate to be on the receiving end, and one of the two boxes he gave me has been on a metal fence post at the corner of my garden for 20 or more years. And every year it has been home to two — sometimes three — families of bluebirds.
These tiny, feathery creatures taught me a great deal. For one thing, they taught me about discipline and tough love. From one of God’s most beautiful families, I learned a lot about family values.
I don’t really know what kind of parent I’ve been for Mary’s four kids and mine. I wish I could say I did the best I could. Like most parents, I guess I did some things right and some things wrong. Had Bob Freeman given me that bluebird box earlier, and had I paid attention to what went on in that home, I believe I would have been a better father.
At this late date, it’s too late — for me. But what I learned may help some young couple just starting their family. So bear with me.
Newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the Internet are full of advice on how to be good parents. If you want a real, up close lesson in parenting, build a bluebird box, attach it to a post in the back yard, and watch what happens.
Please understand that I am no ornithologist. I don’t know anything about any branch of zoology. I have no idea exactly how long it takes for a pair of bluebirds to mate, nest, lay the eggs, hatch the eggs, feed their young, rear their young, and help their young leave the nest and make it on their own.
But I know what I have observed and haven’t observed, and I’ve never observed these parents kicking their young out of the nest. Their younguns are trained, disciplined and toughened up to fly away and make it on their own. No snake or cat or beast of prey feasts on these babies.
Here’s the bluebird program, as seen through the eyes of an amateur bird watcher:
The happy, energetic couple — one male, one female; one dark blue, one light blue — work together to build their home, mostly of pine straw.
Although I have not witnessed this, I assume the female lays the eggs and sits on them. The male stands close by in a supporting and protective role.
At birth — in this case, at hatch — it gets interesting. Both parents feed the infants. For a week to ten days they approach the nest, awaken the little ones, and enter the box with freshly caught worms in their beaks. You never heard such hungry, happy chirping.
Then mama and papa stop going inside. They approach, sit on top of the box or on a nearby limb or wire, and wait. They wait with freshly caught worms in their beaks.
You can hear the little ones squawking and clamoring for their parents to come in. When they realize their providers and protectors aren’t coming in, they scratch and claw their way up the side of the box and poke their little beaks through the entrance hole. They open wide and receive their gourmet dinner. This goes on for a week to ten days.
Then the mature adult male and female approach the nest with nothing in their beaks. They perch nearby and talk to their babies. Or maybe the babies are adolescents by now. Anyway, they encourage a new generation to climb higher, stick their necks out, push their little bodies forward, and look out on their bright new world.
This they do. And all the while, they beg for food. This goes on for a day or two. And then they realize dad and mom aren’t going to feed them, baby them, anymore. It hits them: they’ve got to grow up, get out of there — or starve. Mama and daddy ain’t coming in, and they ain’t kicking us out.
They fly out, dropping a string of white, gooey bombs as they soar to the nearest clothesline or tree. It’s a good idea not to get in their flyway.
The chirping, chattering and singing is unbelievable. It seems that all the bluebirds in Jefferson have come to celebrate. They welcome the newcomers to the neighborhood and congratulate them on surviving the rites of passage to adulthood.
They made it because their parents trained and disciplined them with tough love.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index


By: Susan Harper
The Commerce News
August 4, 2004

Put Toothpaste Back In Tube
I’m writing this week’s column as a public service, and at the cost of some privacy, because it has come to my attention that toothpaste can be bad for a person. It’s a piece of enlightenment I think I should share.
If you’ve read the small print on one of those tubes, you may already have a clue about what we’ve all been putting in our mouths. I have to admit, though, that I don’t go around reading toothpaste tubes. Mine was a gradual awakening that began with a letter in a magazine’s “mailbag” section, from a reader who had run out of toothpaste while she was housebound with the flu. Her teeth and gums had improved dramatically, she wrote, during the days when she was forced to substitute baking soda for toothpaste. Could she be allergic to toothpaste?
Yes, indeed, was the editorial reply. The commercial toothpastes most of us buy at the grocery store have some pretty harsh detergents in them.
Turns out that’s an understatement. Sodium lauryl sulfate, the cleaning agent in most commercial toothpastes, is also used in garage-floor cleaners, engine degreasers and car-wash soaps. The American College of Toxicology says that SLS can penetrate and be retained in the eye, brain, heart and liver – and that it is corrosive and harmful to skin tissue.
But this is just the beginning of what’s in that familiar-looking tube on our bathroom shelves. The sodium fluoride that’s used in commercial toothpastes has never been approved by the FDA – perhaps because it’s also used in rat and cockroach poisons. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute are now linking it with about 10,000 cancer deaths per year, along with allergic reactions and arthritis.
I could go on (believe me) – there’s triclosan, for example, which is registered by the EPA as a dangerous pesticide – but you get the idea. I was treated for gum disease for 30 years, but when my alert hygienist suggested that I might be allergic to my toothpaste or mouthwash, I remembered the magazine “mailbag” letter, did a little research and switched to a toothpaste made from algae, which I found in a health-food store in Athens.
My next checkup was on the order of a miracle, at least to me. I had never before heard the words, “Hey, you’re looking much better” in a dentist’s office. Sammy Thomason, who is my dentist, thought that my allergy might be hereditary, so he encouraged my parents to switch toothpastes, too, and they did – with results similar to mine.
A few months ago I shared all of this with a colleague who was facing gum-graft surgery (yikes!), and now she doesn’t need surgery at all; her problem disappeared after she switched toothpastes.
What I love about all this is the quick fix. Seems like most of the things we worry about – or are plagued by – can be mended only if we pray hard, lobby our congressional representatives, fight the special interests or change the world. Here’s one where all we have to do is change toothpastes. I’d rather switch than fight, wouldn’t you?
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.
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